The Lions


The lions are first. Mom and dad pull me up there, to the fence, the bars I put my hands on. The mama lion is sleeping and the dad is too and he yawns, this big lion, with those sharp teeth. His open mouth is big. He could swallow me. That is what my dad says, he says Jonah, he could swallow you if you aren't careful. I don't want to be swallowed. I don't want to think about this lion swallowing me with his open mouth, those sharp teeth. I cover my ears. Sometimes I do that when my dad talks. I use the palm of my hands and I cover them up and then I can't hear anything.

There was green grass in our yard when he told me that if I didn't put up my hands like I was ready, the football would crack my face. He said This goddamn football is going to crack open your face if you don't get your hands up.

It was when the tree had broken in a windstorm, that night when the house felt like it was lifting, and the next morning my dad said to me that bones could break like trees. Your bones can break like those branches you know. I covered my ears. When he said that, when he said I could crack my face open with a football and my arms or legs would break like tree branches, those were times when I used my palms to cover my ears. Another time when I don't want to listen.

Once I flew a kite and it was up and going, and there he was, my dad. He was standing next to me and he was watching me like he watches those lions, and I didn't cover my ears because he didn't say anything. I was waiting for him to say something, because he was standing there next to me, and I thought he was going to say the kite would catch the wind and carry me into the sun, that I would burn up, that I could catch on fire and burn, but my dad didn't say You are a fucking fire kid. He didn't say anything. He just watched me fly the kite. He watched until the kite lost wind and did a nosedive into the yard. It was a sunny day and he stood there until the kite hit the ground. Then he went back into the house and slid the glass door closed.

The daddy lion closes his yawn. I look where he is looking and there is nothing. I thought he was looking at this little girl with a red balloon tied to her wrist, a red balloon floating above her, but the lion wasn't looking at anything. I thought maybe he was looking at his own reflection in the glass, but he wasn't. The lion was just looking out into nothing, like my dad was that day with the kite.